Kid Literary Characters and Their Grown-Up Counterparts


We recently discovered something we didn’t know about the Steig Larsson books — that he modeled his introverted computer hacker protagonist, Lisbeth Salander, on childhood favorite Pippi Longstocking. When delivering his Millenium series to his publisher, Larsson wrote, “My point of departure was what Pippi Longstocking would be like as an adult. Would she be called a sociopath because she looked upon society in a different way and has no social competence?” Well maybe, but we have to agree with Slate‘s analysis that cheery, delightfully odd Pippi Longstocking is not a believable younger version of the tough-as-nails Lisbeth Salander. Nevertheless, the idea got us to thinking about other literary legacies, and whether any of our favorite young characters might have grown up into other, older literary figures that we know and love. Click through to check out the pairs that we came up with, and let us know who you think would grow up to be who in the comments.

Holden Caulfield and Jay Gatsby

While many comparisons come to mind for Holden (Hamlet and Seymour Glass being two of these, though each is overly generous to that snotty, sighing teenager), we think Gatsby fits like a well-crafted glove. Holden is American literature’s archetype for teenage angst and refusal to grow up, and Gatsby — a man building his world around a childhood dream — seems a natural extension. Though Holden came from as rich a family as Daisy could have hoped for and Gatsby was forced to make his money himself, we would also find it evilly satisfying (and, let’s face it, realistic) if Holden grew up to be to a man as phony as Gatsby.

Eloise and Holly Golightly

Can’t you just imagine Holly Golightly growing up in a “room on the tippy-top floor” of the Plaza? If she had had a turtle (and if she gave her animals names), can’t you see him being named Skiperdee? Well, we can. We think the mischievous, lovable Eloise just couldn’t help but grow up into the sweetly oddball Holly, what with their independence, quirky charm and mutual love for New York City. Not to mention this interesting tidbit: Eloise is often cited as being based on Liza Minnelli, who was the author’s goddaughter, and Holly has been described as “Capote’s personal crystallization of Sally Bowles” — Sally Bowles being the Cabaret character Minnelli won an Oscar for portraying in 1972. Just saying.

Harry Potter and Quentin Coldwater

From the moment it hit stands, people have been referring to Lev Grossman’s The Magicians as “Harry Potter for grownups,” and in many ways, everyone’s right. Quentin Coldwater is a nerdy teenager who, to his surprise and delight, is recruited into a magical school, Brakebills. Only it’s college, not secondary school, and while both Harry and Quentin are angsty complainers, Quentin gets laid a good deal more (even if it’s in arctic fox form — yikes), and encounters things like ennui and boredom. After all, once you hit the age of eighteen, magic is like, totally boring, you guys.

Anne of Green Gables and Elizabeth Bennet

Though Anne Shirley is an orphan and Elizabeth Bennet far from that (something she may have mixed feelings about), the imaginative, playful Anne could have definitely grown up to be the witty, good-natured Lizzy. Their similar taste in hats aside, the two young women are both exceptionally strong, forthright characters who are only slightly too outspoken for their respective families and who are both much loved by their hordes of readers. After all, it only makes sense that one favorite should grow into another.

Encyclopedia Brown and Sherlock Holmes

This may seem too easy, but we just couldn’t help it — we love the idea that Sherlock Holmes would have started off as a boy detective solving crimes at 25 cents a pop out of his dad’s garage and grown into the eccentric, hyper-observant madman that we all know and love. Of course, instead of Watson, the child Encyclopedia Brown had Sally Kimball as devoted sidekick — and we have to say we’re having trouble deciding who we like better. Sally is certainly a lot saucier than Watson, the Jude Law version notwithstanding, but the doctor has his charms as well. Either way, all signs point to a match.

Lyra Belacqua and Jane Eyre

Like Lyra, Jane is an example of a heroine who never really falls prey to damsel-in-distress syndrome — both the girl and the woman are independent and self-reliant, with passionate dispositions. Neither has ever been known not to speak her mind if she felt strongly about something, either. True, we’ll have to leave Jane’s staunch Christianity out of it — since Lyra is so beleaguered by a thin metaphor for the Church, she probably wouldn’t grow up devout — but character-wise, we think it’s a strong match.

Max and Don Quixote

Both Maurice Sendak’s Max and Don Quixote are heroes of a quest narrative more or less sprung from their own heads — while Max imagines the entire world of the Wild Things springing up from his bedroom, Don Quixote manages to keep his wits about him when it comes to anything besides his chivalric blind spot, which we see as a natural maturation of mind. Either way, we think it’s pretty likely that the imaginative Max, retired and in his fifties, reading too many books about knights, would take it into his head to go charging off on a chivalrous adventure, mistaking windmills for giants and inns for castles, until he was all played out.

Huckleberry Finn and Dean Moriarty

Mark Twain’s original American boy vagabond in search of adventure would inevitably grow up to figure as the care-free rover in Kerouac’s semi-autobiographical novel. Moriarty is described as “a side-burned hero of the snowy West” and a “holy con-man,” which seem to us to be pretty accurate descriptions of how the lawless, fanciful Huck might have turned out. And after all, even though Moriarty and Sal never set off down the river on a raft, you can bet they would have if they could’ve — and we think Huck would be itching to try that ’37 Ford sedan.

Peter Pan and Rob Fleming

As with Holden (and Peter is a similar figure, even), there are many characters in the American canon who could have sprung unwillingly from the child who vowed to never grow up — Rob Fleming is just one of our favorites. The music nerd in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, Rob is a list-making, over-thinking record store owner in his mid-thirties who just can’t seem to get himself together. Attention, literature fans, to the real fruits of eternal childhood.

Tintin and Philip Marlowe

We can totally see Raymond Chandler’s moral, contemplative private eye springing from Hergé’s pure-as-snow boy reporter. Sure, Tintin would have had to have picked up a drinking habit and a bit of language along the way, but what else was his friendship with Captain Haddock for? In any event, that penchant for chess clearly started from a young age.